Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Honey To A Bear

Harvest Inn, St Helena, California, USA

March 19, 2013

This essay, Honey To A Bear, is the companion piece to On Fleas And Piranhas.

It was conceived at the same time as I am indebted to Charlene Afremow for her coaching for this conversation.

As a postulate, as something I'd like you to try on for size, I say the world of transformation is attractive. I mean that quite literally. I mean transformation is "attractive" as in magnetic, as in engaging  - not "attractive" as in good looking, not even as in pleasant.

Transformation (which is to say being in a conversation for transformation)  isn't always pleasant. Daring, yes. Big hearted, yes. But pleasant? Not always. Confronting who you've been being  (as distinct from who you really are), isn't always pleasant. Confronting where you're being ongoingly inauthentic, isn't always pleasant. Confronting being out of integrity (not to mention confronting being in  integrity only when it's expedient  to be in integrity), isn't always pleasant. In fact it can be outright humbling. It can be withering  at times.

Neither, for that matter, is transformation always good looking. No one  looks good when the impact of being out of integrity hits home - that is to say no one thinks  they look good when the impact of being out of integrity hits home. In fact being out of integrity comes at such a cost it's almost impossible to confront it fully. We'll do anything  to avoid confronting our out integrity. We'll go unconscious. We'll fall asleep. We'll self‑medicate. We'll abuse substances and alcohol. When the realization of the awful cost  of being out of integrity hits home, it ain't pretty.

Living transformation, on the other hand, is attractive, magnetic, engaging. By this I mean the quality, the presence  of transformation is engaging. Literally - as in you want to engage with it. When you're being fully who you really are, there's a quality about you that's subliminally  attractive, a quality about you people want to be around, a quality which is attractive to all human beings, whether they've made it their business to stand for transformation, or not. It's even attractive to self-styled critics of the work of transformation.


Wait! Doesn't that perfectly represent "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"?  - the more things change, the more they stay the same, yes?

That ... and also "what you resist persists" (as Werner Erhard may have said).


You know, while I may not always be warm to what these armchair critics say, I admire their commitment to saying it. The work of transformation is like honey to a bear. Bears are attracted to honey. Period. And I don't get to say whether or not it'll be docile, cute, playful, harmless, new born little bear cubs I love to play with, or ornery  adult grizzlies who want to rip me apart, who are attracted to it.

Sweet Honey, Grizzly Bear

All of that was in the background of my thinking when during a stretch break, I started a conversation with a guy I'd invited to be my guest at an introductory event during which he could find out what was available for him from the conversation which is Werner's work, and whether or not he'd like to participate.

He arrived with his girlfriend - something I wasn't expecting yet welcomed anyway. They both listened closely to the introduction leader and participated in the processes and in the sharing. Then the session naturally became a Q and A  with the leader, and that's when his demeanor changed. He ridiculed almost every question asked, and he wasn't subtle about it either. He turned, ostensibly to make his aside  comments to his girlfriend - but it was clear he had no intention to keep his remarks private. He spoke loudly so everyone could hear.

Eventually the leader invited him to share what the entire group could hear anyway. This led to a conversation with the leader in which he was insulting, ridiculing, and demeaning not only to the leader but to everyone else in the room. And while it didn't do much good by way of restoring the equilibrium of the session, it was clear to everyone in the room this guy came in with an agenda, with an already always listening  which he was going to vent regardless. And what was equally obvious to everyone in the room was that venting regardless is just the way he conducts himself with people.

Then we were on the stretch break. Even before I could move over to him to ask how it was going (setting his venting totally aside), I noticed his girlfriend was talking with him ... and boy! was she animated. It wasn't my intention to eavesdrop on their conversation. Yet she was talking so loudly I couldn't help but hear. She was saying (I'm paraphrasing) "You always  do this. These are nice  people. These are good  people. You could learn a lot from them. But you always ruin  it for everyone. You always bring the attention on to you. You're rude. You're aggressive. I don't like you when you're like this" ... and on and on and on, to the point where I actually felt sorry for the guy. I'd already guessed this evening wasn't the first time he'd been disruptive like this. Now I was seeing what it costs him directly in his private life.

I actually wasn't looking forward to speaking with him. But he was my guest, after all - so I was responsible. I sat down on an empty chair in front of him and his girlfriend. He looked up at me and said "For this evening, an apology would be in order.". OK, I thought to myself, I've dealt with skeptics before. Heck, I was a skeptic myself once, a real know it all. I was just like him: holding strong opinions which weren't even based on any personal experience of whatever it was I was opining / going off  about.

So I said to him "I apologize to you for your experience of the evening. I wanted you to get something valuable from being here. I apologize if it didn't match or exceed your expectations. This work has proven to be enormously valuable for millions and millions  of people worldwide, and I wanted you to get value from it also. So if it hasn't matched or exceeded your expectations, I apologize to you, and I appreciate you giving up your evening to be here. I know your time is valuable.".

He was silent. Perhaps he'd expected an argument. Perhaps he'd expected to be confronted. Whatever he'd expected, he certainly  hadn't expected generosity with nothing held back. Then he said "That's not what I meant. When I said an apology would be in order, I meant it's I  who should apologize to you.".

* * *

You could have knocked me down with a feather.

In one of those moments of epiphany given occasionally by grace, he'd seen his entire racket. He'd seen his entire game. I would go as far as saying he'd seen how he always gets in the way of his own life working. He'd seen how his entire mode of l'enfant terrible  behavior only works against himself in the long run. He'd gained some insight into the cost of his words and deeds.

I was looking into the eyes of someone suddenly open, someone suddenly available, someone suddenly accessible ... and more than a little embarrassed. Within the next hour, in addition to apologizing to me, he apologized to his girlfried, then he walked up to and apologized to the leader, at whose behest he shared what he had gotten with the whole group, to whom he also apologized. The group stood, and applauded.

"Wow!" I thought, "... and this is only the introductory  event ...".

Life Works When You Keep Your Fingers Out Of The Machinery

He went on to register himself in the course - which he completed. When he spoke with me about it afterwards, I could tell he'd gotten his life back. Now, to be sure, it would have been pure arrogance on my part if I'd told him he'd gotten his life back. Then he said "I feel like I've gotten my life back. Thank you!".

It confirmed something for me, something I already knew, which is this: even ornery grizzly bears (ie especially  ornery grizzly bears) who want to rip me apart (at least at first)  are attracted to honey.

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© Laurence Platt - 2013 through 2017 Permission